.

It’s what we all work for. What we need to provide for our families. Not having enough keeps us awake, and having too much is a dream. We take it for granted, disrespect it, even gamble with it. And these days, it doesn’t come easy.
 
When I was a stripper, I made great money. I lived large in a luxury high-rise apartment sporting panoramic views of Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean. Waikiki was the backdrop to a lifestyle I milked with every VIP pass and full moon limousine ride. I took taxis everywhere, enjoyed monthly facials, weekly massages with manicures, and hundred-dollar haircuts.
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I wasn’t kidding about the limo rides. I had a driver named James (his real name) on retainer for monthly full moon excursions around the island. My friends could set their watches by James pulling up to the club at 4:00 am, and in addition to a handful of strays (lucky tourists; right place, right time), my friends and I would sip champagne and act every bit the Rock Star Stripper Posse until sunrise. James was paid well and never complained once about standing by while we skinny dipped in the warm glow of the Hawaiian sunrise. Go figure.
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But I still wasn’t happy.
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Did I have blissful moments wrapped in laughter and comfort? Yes. Was my life one big party, full of excess and adventure? You betcha. I was also living on a hamster wheel full of denial, self-loathing and warped sense of security; my drug use perpetuating the mastery of camouflage.
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No amount of money would change the fact that even I wasn’t fully aware of how far I was falling.
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The older I get, the more I find myself nodding in agreement to age-old phrases like “you get what you pay for” and “money doesn’t buy happiness.” But back then, far be it for my twenty-something brain to realize – you really do and, it really doesn’t.
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Here’s the thing about clichés – they exist because there’s considerable weight to their words.
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When I was raking it in, I really did get what I paid for. I welcomed a life of escape and fascination, not realizing then that I was forking over top dollars to anesthetize my pain. I was able to numb myself from what I needed to work through by creating chaos of grand proportions.
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Ten years in to my rock star lifestyle, I realized something. I was creating more darkness with my unhealthy choices, which then compounded to the pile of shit I already needed to deal with.

Nothing was going to make me happy, if I wasn’t happy with myself.

There is a woman I see at the office every day, and she is never without a smile. Sometimes I catch her humming a tune or even whistling as she pulls her cleaning supply cart. We greet one another with a smile in the ladies room as she refills the paper towels. She is a lovely reminder that you don’t need wealth to be happy.

As for me, I live paycheck to paycheck now. There’s nothing fancy about my home, and I certainly haven’t hung out in a limo for a while. I see a therapist regularly and she’s helping me on my journey to my most authentic self (how very Oprah). I am working through my childhood traumas and learning to love everything about me, flaws and all  – because that’s what’s real.

Sure, I wish my purse strings weren’t as tight these days, and I kick myself for not saving my stripper money. But my life is progressing exactly how it’s supposed to. I am still here after two overdoses, not to mention countless choices I’ve made to put myself in harm’s way. My guardian angel is the coolest, and I owe her at least seven of my lives. And when you think of it, you just can’t put a price tag on that.

“Money alone isn’t enough to bring happiness . . . happiness is when you’re actually truly ok with losing everything you have.” ~ Tony Hsieh 

 

19 comments

  1. It is what it is. We all take turns beating ourselves up for past mistakes, but it doesn't help, except one can try not to repeat them. I said try, nobody is perfect.

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  2. I love this post, Christine. Don't you think that everything happened perfectly – even the dark parts? Even the wasting away all your money? I think the reason you resonate so well with so many people is because you've seen it all! BTW, I'm ready to catch a flight to Hawaii. Tell me when you want a visitor 🙂

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  3. That quote at the end is great. Let me back up – this entire post is great. My happiness and income seemed to be on parallel paths – although I think the happiness brought the money instead of the other way around. Money or no money, the biggest thing I've learned is that happiness comes when you're fully present in the moment. Sounds like you're there right now. 🙂

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  4. I'm nodding at Bama cuz he gets it.Loved this so much.The choices, the choices.Now you can enjoy the woman's happiness. The woman pushing the cart. Maybe you wouldn't have even noticed her before.

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  5. That was beautiful 🙂 And so true. Living paycheck to paycheck sucks, but it makes $1 draft night and the Groupon deals feel that much more special. Besides, limos are overrated–if you sit sideways you almost always get car sick. You’ve done yourself a world of good by avoiding them. 🙂 Keep writing.

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